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Warriors share girls league swim title

Dowden wins 100-yard breaststroke championship

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

Fallbrook High School’s girls swim team shared the 2023 Valley League championship, and Fallbrook junior Ava Dowden was the individual league champion in the 100-yard breaststroke.

Regular-season standings account for half of the formula which determines the final league positions with the other half based on positions at the league championship meet. During league dual meet competition Fallbrook won all seven meets while Ramona had a 6-1 record with the Bulldogs’ only loss taking place April 20 at Fallbrook.

Ramona’s girls had a 44-point advantage over Fallbrook in the league meet to give the Bulldogs a share of the league championship at the expense of the Warriors winning it outright.

“They got the girls they needed to finish ahead of us in a number of events. We had some great swims and they did, too, just a little bit faster than us,” said Fallbrook coach Sean Redmond.

San Pasqual and Pacific Ridge joined the Valley League for 2023 while Fallbrook, Escondido, Escondido Charter, Ramona, Mission Hills, and Valley Center all returned to the league.

In a dual meet, each school is allowed three swimmers or divers in each individual event with position points being given for the top five finishes and two quartets in each relay race with points given for the three fastest times. The league meet allowed each school four swimmers or divers for each individual event and one relay quartet for each event. Points were given for 18 positions in each individual event including the diving.

The league meet was held at Fallbrook High School. The swim preliminaries which determined who advanced to the A, B, and C finals took place April 26, the diving was contested April 28, and the swim finals were held April 29. Ramona’s girls had 512 points while Fallbrook finished with 468 points. Mission Hills had the third-place score of 291 points.

Individual league championships are based solely on the results at the league finals. The 100-yard breaststroke race Dowden won was the only girls event in which Fallbrook received first-place points. Ramona’s girls won three individual events and one relay race.

Five judges scored each dive. The highest score and the lowest score were discarded, and the three middle scores were added together and then multiplied by the dive's degree of difficulty to determine the score for each dive.

Ramona sophomore Piper Williams had the superlative score of 158.65 points. Fallbrook sophomore Olivia Searle had the second-place score of 156.15 points.

“I’m excited for what she did. She was very consistent and did a good job,” Redmond said of Searle. Last year Searle was seventh at the league meet and scored 140.30 points.

An Escondido Charter freshman accumulated 150.15 points for third place. Ramona divers took fourth and fifth. Fallbrook sophomore Maile McMahon, who won last year’s league championship by scoring 211.25 points, scored 132.60 points this year for seventh place. “She just had an off-day,” Redmond said.

Searle and McMahon were the only Fallbrook girls to compete in the diving; freshman Emylee Turner was injured on her final warmup dive and did not participate in the scored portion.

The first swim event is the 200-yard medley relay. In the preliminaries, Redmond utilized senior Samantha Hanlon for the backstroke, freshman Claire Lucia for the breaststroke, senior Stephanie Hanlon for the butterfly, and Dowden for the freestyle. Fallbrook’s time of 2:10.70 placed fifth with Ramona finishing third.

In the finals, Fallbrook’s quartet consisted of sophomore Liesel Young, junior Kela Kendall, junior Tatum Brown, and Dowden. Fallbrook’s time of 2:07.85 placed fourth in the finals, between the 2:06.99 time Ramona posted and the 2:08.22 swim of Escondido.

The first individual swim event is the 200-yard freestyle. In both the preliminaries and the finals, Fallbrook junior Ava Papoulias was fourth and Ramona freshman Avonlea Hammonds finished fifth. Papoulias had times of 2:05.55 in the preliminaries and 2:05.56 in the A final.

Stephanie Hanlon was ninth on both days, swimming the preliminaries in 2:18.75 and the B final in 2:18.81. Young had the 15th-place time of 2:27.16 in the preliminaries but swam the C final in 2:36.53 for 17th place.

Dowden had the fastest 200-yard individual medley preliminaries time at 2:20.68 while Valley Center senior Kylee Harrington had the second-place time of 2:24.58. Harrington won the A final in 2:20.15 and Dowden finished second with a time of 2:22.88.

Kendall was third in the individual medley preliminaries with a 2:28.17 time while Pacific Ridge junior Emerson Tadder was fourth at 2:31.29. In the A final, Tadder took third while improving her time to 2:27.84 and Kendall was fourth with a 2:29.30 swim. The 10th-place preliminary time for freshman Linnea Harrington was 2:49.39, and although her time in the B final was 2:50.47, she improved her position to ninth place.

In the 50-yard freestyle preliminaries, junior Marissa Pearce had a time of 27.05 seconds for fourth and senior Arden Baur swam her heat in 27.32 seconds for fifth. The next-fastest time in the preliminaries was 28.28 seconds which was achieved by both Brown and Valley Center junior Kendra Weaver. A swim off determined which one swam in the A final and who was relegated to the B final.

Weaver won the swimoff, completing her 50 yards in 27.89 seconds, to advance to the A final. Brown finished in 28.13 seconds and would compete in the B final.

Fallbrook’s fourth 50-yard freestyle swimmer, junior Kasey Sanchez, swam her preliminary race in 30.66 seconds for 15th place and a lane in the C final.

Ramona’s three swim individual league championships all involved sophomore Katie Dusseault, who won the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle A final races and was also part of the winning 200-yard freestyle relay team. In the 50-yard freestyle final, Dusseault had a time of 24.50 seconds.

Pearce swam the final in 26.81 seconds to take fourth place. Baur was fifth and completed her two laps in 27.12 seconds.

In the 100-yard butterfly, Kendall had the fourth-fastest preliminaries time at 1:08.06 with Buscho placing fifth with a swim of 1:11.90, Valley Center freshman Livi Macaulay having the sixth-best time of 1:15.52, and Searle completing her laps in 1:16.04 for seventh. Macaulay scratched out of the final to give Searle a lane in the A final.

In that championship race, Kendall was fourth with a time of 1:06.76; Buscho touched her final wall 1:09.93 after the start for fifth, and Searle was sixth at 1:14.97. “Both Kela and Olivia had nice time drops,” Redmond said.

Harrington had a preliminary time of 1:18.17 for 10th place, and Macaulay’s scratch allowed Harrington to take ninth with a time of 1:17.73 in the B final. A preliminary time of 1:27.90 gave sophomore Sydnie Brown 16th place, and she finished the C final in 1:25.99 for 15th.

“All had time drops and just got up and raced,” Redmond said.

Papoulias swam her 100-yard freestyle preliminaries heat in 58.09 seconds for fourth place. Pearce was sixth with a time of 59.10 seconds.

“Those were good time drops for them to get to that point,” Redmond said.

Pearce obtained a milestone with her preliminaries mark. “That was her first time under a minute, so that was good,” Redmond said.

Baur finished in 1:00.41 for seventh. Tatum Brown had the eighth-place time of 1:00.69. Ramona junior Kayla Gompper placed ninth and finished in 1:01.83.

Papoulias swam the A final in 57.97 seconds for fourth. Pearce was sixth at 59.53 seconds.

Baur won the B final and broke one minute for the first time in her career, finishing in 59.61 seconds and beating out Gompper, whose time was 59.66 seconds. Brown took ninth place with a time of 1:01.06.

Lucia competed in the 500-yard freestyle. She swam her preliminary race in 6:15.03 for sixth and was also sixth in the finals with a time of 6:10.53. Four of the six swimmers in the A final are freshmen and winner Riley Baldwin of Escondido was the only senior in the A final. “It kind of opens things up for next year,” Redmond said.

Fallbrook had two seniors in the 500-yard freestyle. Stephanie Hanlon was seventh on both days with times of 6:17.93 in the preliminaries and 6:16.29 in the B final. Katja Young was 17th in the preliminaries with a swim of 7:12.21 and moved up to 15th with a C final time of 6:59.36.

The C final was the last race for Young in her high school career. “Her goal was to beat seven minutes and she did. I was excited for that,” Redmond said. “She had a good race.”

Fallbrook’s other 500-yard swimmer, freshman Sophia Max, had 18th-place times both days; Max completed the preliminaries in 7:16.97 and the C final in 7:30.59.

In the 200-yard freestyle relay preliminaries, Fallbrook’s quartet consisted of junior Jasmine Hernandez, Papoulias, Baur, and Kendall. Their time of 1:57.96 placed fifth. Papoulias, Baur, Pearce, and Kendall competed in the finals and finished fourth at 1:48.37. “They swam well,” Redmond said.

Ramona was in third before Dusseault passed the two anchors ahead of her. The position points put Ramona ahead of Fallbrook.

The next event was the 100-yard backstroke. Ramona freshman Isabella Accardi, senior Devyn Fulgham, and freshman Abby Hollopeter secured the fourth through sixth positions in the preliminaries with respective times of 1:12.81, 1:13.79, and 1:15.25. Samantha Hanlon had the seventh-best time of 1:16.37. Liesel Young also qualified for the B final with the 12th-place time of 1:20.61 while Ramona junior Madeline Laky assured the Bulldogs of B final points by placing 10th in the preliminaries. Fallbrook’s other swimmer in the finals, freshman Elsie Ritchie, had a preliminary time of 1:24.35 which was worth 16th place and a lane in the C final.

Hanlon swam the final in 1:15.86 for ninth place. Young finished in 1:19.67 to give Fallbrook 12th-place points. Ritchie completed her race in 1:19.69 for 15th.

“Ramona had three swimmers in the top six. That was a huge difference right there,” Redmond said. “They had two freshmen who swam well.”

Redmond noted that his own swimmers performed well even if they didn’t match up with their Bulldogs counterparts. “Our girls were right on their best times,” he said.

Although Dowden won the 100-yard breaststroke, only one other Fallbrook swimmer qualified for the finals and Lucia was in the B final. Ramona had two girls in the A final, one in the B final, and one in the C final.

Dowden had the superlative preliminaries time of 1:15.56 while Tadder was second at 1:16.89. Lucia swam her preliminary laps in 1:25.20 for eighth.

The final took Dowden 1:12.41 with Tadder finishing in 1:14.86 and Mission Hills senior Sofia Hofer taking third with a time of 1:15.60. “That was a fun race to watch,” Redmond said.

Dowden is the youngest of five children, all girls, and all five have swum for the Warriors. Taylor Dowden, who graduated in 2016, holds the school 100-yard breaststroke record which is 1:08.74. “She really wants her sister’s record,” Redmond said of Ava Dowden.

Lucia maintained eighth place in the B final, completing her race in 1:23.82.

A high school swim meet concludes with the 400-yard freestyle relay. Ramona needed only to not get disqualified to clinch first. “I think they played it safe,” Redmond said. “We were going for the win.”

During the preliminaries, sophomore Elizabeth Tagle-Nava, Pearce, Papoulias, and Dowden had a time of 4:12.64 for fourth place. Fallbrook’s lineup in the final consisted of Pearce, Tatum Brown, Papoulias, and Dowden.

Valley Center won the final with a time of 3:51.10. Fallbrook was second at 3:52.87. “All four of our girls for the first time were under a minute for their splits, so that was helpful, but Valley Center was just a little faster on that,” Redmond said. Ramona’s third-place time was 3:53.71.

Third place in the final race was good enough to give Ramona first in the championship meet along with a share of the league title. “They got their swimmers ready for the meet. They were definitely well-prepared,” Redmond said.

Fallbrook and Ramona are the only two schools in the Valley League with on-campus pools. A failure with the pump in the Fallbrook High School swimming pool delayed the start of practice for Fallbrook High School’s swim team and also forced two meets to be rescheduled.

“The start of our season was a little bumpy,” Redmond said. “They just stepped up and were able to overcome all those.” During the first two weeks of the season Fallbrook had two meets apiece.

“I have to give the girls huge credit for being able to overcome some of the adversities they’ve had this season,” Redmond said. “It’s showing the type of character they have to be able to do that.”

Although Ramona won the league meet and the co-championship, Fallbrook shared the league title. “At least we came out as co-league champs,” Redmond said. “Overall as a team I thought that the girls did a great job.”


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